When Jack was born: Birth Story, Part 3

Part 1

Part 2

So, I was admitted to Carolina Medical Center: Main and admitted to their Maternity Ward’s ICU section. There are apparently two floors of this section: one is for women who are super duper high risk and could deliver any second, and need constant monitoring and a dedicated nurse (4th floor). The other is for woman who are high risk but they are trying to keep pregnant for a bit longer… like those who are leaking amniotic fluid, and are on bed rest (5th floor). This was apparently a big difference that comes up later.

When I am admitted to the 4th floor, it is past midnight and I can hear women in labor all around me. The nurse is admitting me and asking about my health history while I hear a woman across the hall SCREAMING and then a baby wailing only seconds later. It felt like a baby was being born every couple of minutes. I ask the nurse, “Wow, busy night?!?” and she says, “actually, it’s pretty slow tonight.”

The next week is a blur. I was on mandatory bed rest – could not get up even to use the restroom. Leg wraps were put around my calves, and the wraps would will with air and then deflate, supposedly massaging my muscles and decreasing my risk of a blood clot in my leg. My blood pressure was taken every fifteen minutes, and it would always set off the “dangerously high” alarm. We learned how to turn that alarm off – I didn’t need a reminder that my body and my baby were in danger. I was not allowed any kind of stimulation – no visitors, no flowers, very little TV, and no iPhone. Once in a while, my pressure would go down a bit and I’d grab my phone, furiously emailing and texting every to get some sort of connection to the outside world.

The first two days, I was on magnesium on the 4th floor, and taking steroids to help Jack’s lungs develop. The doctors (main doctor and several 2nd, 3rd and 4th year residents) could not tell me anything past what they were doing right then: monitoring me and taking things on an hour-by-hour basis. After the second day, the doctors started to say “Hey, maybe you’ll go to the fifth floor soon!” but they did not tell us what that meant. Eventually, we grabbed a nurse and asked. The fifth floor meant I could use the bathroom, take a shower. So the fifth floor meant freedom.

On the third day I was transferred to the fifth floor. I saw my reflection in the mirror and was flabbergasted – I was so swollen and huge, I did not recognize myself at first. How had I suddenly gained so much weight? It was all the fluid being retained in my body.

I was on the fifth floor only about 24 hours. That night, my pressure spiked again and I had to be transferred back to the fourth floor. Erik and I were convinced that Jack would be born that night. Instead, I was put back on magnesium and bed rest for two more days. I continued to swell up – my legs and arms showed what is called “pitting and denting” – if you pressed down on my arm, the impression made from your fingers would stay and slowly rise up, like memory foam.

There was more talk of being transferred back to the fifth floor. We asked why I could not stay on the fourth floor, and no one gave us a straight answer. Finally, a doctor admitted, “Because of insurance.” It wasn’t a good answer, but it was honest. Fourth floor meant more hands-on care, faster response from nurses and doctors. That meant more staff was needed, and the cost was higher. Insurance wouldn’t let that happen.

Back to the fifth floor, and I was only there about 16 hours before I was transferred again at 3 am. Erik had gone home on my insistence to get a real night’s sleep. I was more upset about him having to come back up in the middle of the night than I was about being transferred back. As the fourth floor unit came downstairs to transfer me back, I was making jokes. But then the fifth floor nurse gave me a hug as I left, which was more personal than any connection I’d ever made with a nurse. Naturally, I assumed that I must be dying if she was giving me a hug.

My blood pressure was climbing, climbing, and I was pumped full of every medicine they could give me to get it to go down. I was perfectly calm during all of this (because of the drugs, a bomb could have gone off in my lap and I would have shrugged it off) but was curious as to how high my numbers were getting. Did you know blood pressure can get as high was 225/150? Because mine did.

Another round of magnesium, another two days of bed rest, and I was starting to lose my mind. If I had been able to be stable on the fifth floor, the doctors said they would want to keep me there as long as possible so Jack could grow. But my body had other plans. On the third round of magnesium, I cried to Erik and told him that I did not know how much more of this I could take. Somehow I knew that Jack was strong enough to be born, but I was not strong enough to continue the back-and-forth of this hospital “rest”. Erik grabbed a doctor and went outside to talk to him.

Later that morning, the attending doctor comes in and tells me that they have decided to induce. They expected me to be worried. I said “YES let’s do this!” The doctor told me they would start me on pitocin to start contractions, and see how I progressed through labor. In order to not stress my body out more during labor, we were told that I would need an epidural as SOON as the contractions became uncomfortable. (This is important later). As the doctor went though everything that would happen and said they were aiming for a vaginal delivery, the 30 weeks of “I can do this!” attitude and a week of “I MUST DO THIS RIGHT AWAY!” attitude disappeared, and I immediately thought, “I can’t do this.”

Part 4: the birth coming soon. It includes me cursing at a doctor, another doctor accidentally breaking my water (“oops”), and more.

 

Pictures and stuff

I’m writing this in bed, from my phone. I had spent ten minutes composing a well-written, thought-provoking and deeply motivational post. Then the WordPress app crashed and I lost it. I would compose it again, but my prescription cough medicine/liquid heroin is about to kick in and I’ll be all 6’s and 7’s. So here are some Instagram goodies. Good nighttttttblarghblarvlat.

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I’m coughing up colors!!

Last year during Jack’s first cold and flu season, I did a pretty good job of avoiding most of the sniffles and coughs that Jack caught. Not this year – he’s in traditional day care this year, so he’s basically sitting in a brightly-colored Petrie dish all day. Today, I coughed up green blobs and then green blobs with red streaks. I can’t wait to see what color it is tomorrow – taste the rainbow!!!

I went to urgent care to make sure my lungs weren’t going to explode. The lab tech lady took some blood to check my white blood cells. Now, I have had my blood taken hundreds of times – that number is NOT an exaggeration. One time, a lab tech actually let me try to take my own blood because I knew the procedure better than she did.

So when this lady starts wiggling the needle to catch my rolling vein and I began getting shooting pains down my arm past the tourniquet, I mentioned it to her. And she said, “it’s just a tourniquet. Geez, is this your first time around needles?!?”

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH. Lady. My medical record weighs more than your fat head. Take your shitty phlebotomy skills and shove them up your ass.

Yeah, I coughed on her.

Grandpa Frank: My Confession of Sexual Abuse

I’ve been reading a lot about the scandal at Penn State lately. Actually, scandal isn’t the right word – this isn’t a celebrity divorce we’re talking about. This is a horrible tragedy that has occurred, and I am horrified there were adults in a position to stop the suffering and humiliation these children have suffered but instead stayed silent or performed the smallest required amount of action… just enough to cover their ass. These children’s lives have been broken by these events, past and present. I know because it has taken me years to see the ripples made by a single act from my step-grandfather.

I call him a step-grandfather because he was my grandma’s second husband, and because I refuse to let anyone think I shared a drop of blood with him. Grandpa Frank married my grandma before I was born. He wasn’t always in a wheelchair, but he is in all my memories. My mother and I would visit every month or so, and he would ask me about school, and my hobbies, and give me $10 to go “have fun with”. When he woke up from his afternoon nap, I would make him a gin and tonic just the way he taught me. I liked Grandpa Frank.

Twenty years ago, I was 13. My mother finally let me get contact lenses to replace my thick glasses, and some boys were starting to notice me. My mom and I planned to visit Grandma and Grandpa Frank one weekend. I remember that my mom and grandma went out to run an errand. Grandpa Frank was taking a nap, so I sat in the kitchen and watched TV. I heard the soft, rhythmic sound of the wheelchair moving across the carpet – this meant that he was awake, and moving to the living room to watch golf. I knew he would want his gin and tonic, so I got up and followed his chair to the living room.

I made his drink as he moved to the sofa, and he asked me to sit down next to him. I sat to his right, and he put his arm around me. This had never happened before, but I did not think anything of it. He asked how school was going (“fine”) and if I had a boyfriend (“no”). Then he told me I was very pretty, and before I could say anything, he slipped his left hand down my shirt and grabbed my breast. I said, “Grandpa Frank, what are you doing?! Stop!” And he just said, “Shh.”

I shoved his hands off of me, and ran into the kitchen. That’s where I stayed for the next hour waiting for my mom to get home and hoping I did not hear his wheelchair move. I just wanted them to come home, so that I would be safe – it’s not like he was going to chase after me, but I no longer felt safe in my grandma’s home. I wanted my grandma and mom to come and save me. When my mom and grandma got home, it took me a while to have the courage to tell them what happened. And when I did, I was told “Oh, he’s old. He doesn’t know any better.”

Years later, my mom would sincerely apologize to me for not doing something, and I have forgiven her. I never forgave my grandma – in fact, after that day, I did not tell her “I love you” until the day before she died. I truly regret this. As for Grandpa Frank, I refused to ever be alone with him again. I would not make his drink, I would not meet his gaze, I would not talk to him. When he died a couple of years later, my first thought was “Good.”

Hindsight and life experience has shown me how this affected me. A few months after this happened, a boy I really liked sat with me on my living room couch one day after school. He tried to grab my breast in that awkward way that 13-year-old boys do, and I freaked out so much I ran outside and didn’t stop running until I was almost a mile away. He spread a rumor that I was a freak, and a lesbian. A couple of months after that, I was at a party with some kids who were a little older than me, in high school. We got into a hot tub, while our parents and dozens of other adults were around. One of them asked me if the rumors were true, and before I could answer, he grabbed my waist and sexually assaulted me under the water, in front of everyone. I cried myself to sleep for months after that.

I’m not sharing this so that anyone feels bad for me. I also don’t want anyone to think I am totally over it – I still have more issues than I can count. It’s a part of my past, and I have moved on from it and given it as much closure as I can. I’m sharing it because I wanted to finally be able to step up and say, This happened to me. It was not my fault. I am not the one who should feel ashamed by this, because I did nothing wrong. I can’t control what happened to me, but I can control how much of an effect it has on me.

My experience positively pales in comparison to what happened to those boys who trusted Coach Sandusky. Did they tell anyone about what happened? Were their complaints taken seriously, or was their abuse interpreted as “horseplay” by those in a position to protect these children? This situation is only going to get worse as more survivors come forward, and as more people look for others to blame. Please remember that at the center of this story, and so many other stories of sexual abuse, is a child who is hiding from their abuser, and waiting for someone to come save them.

When Jack was born: Birth Story, Part 2

Part 1 here.

Hey folks,

I talked to most of you last night, but I wanted to send along an update on Karen with all the details as I know it. She was admitted to CMC Pineville last evening and diagnosed with severe pre-eclampsia. They are treating her for that with Magnesium (muscle relaxer) in addition to IV fluids and blood pressure meds. Following the diagnosis, and because she is 29 weeks, she was transferred to CMC Main, which has a more advanced pre-term NICU.

They have administered one dose of steroids so far, to beef the baby up in addition to boosting his lungs. He could be delivered today, or 10 days. They are playing a balancing act on what is best for Karen (delivery) vs. what is best for the baby (staying in as long as possible). Karen will be hospitalized and on bed rest until delivery.

So far, she has responded very well to the Magnesium, as her blood pressure has been in the 120’s/80’s most of the night and this morning. She’s getting some rest when she can, but they are closely monitoring and come in at least once an hour.

I’ll pass on more info as I know it.- Erik

After a couple of close calls and late night hospital visits, Erik and I go to the local hospital and fully expect to be there for a while. I remember that we were packing, and saying, “What if he’s born early? We have to go ahead and buy all of his stuff. How long do you think he will be in there? Maybe two weeks?” It’s really funny to me in hindsight.

We go to CMC Pineville, which he had selected as the hospital where Jack would be born. My friend Kat got the news and brought in a goody bag of things to make a long hospital visit more bearable. But my blood pressure was up to 188/90 by then, so she left and the resident ob came in to talk to us.

“Here’s what we know. You have severe pre-eclampsia. If we don’t treat you right away, you’re in danger of having a seizure, or even a stroke. The only way to fix pre-eclampsia is for you to deliver the baby. The problem is, he’s only 29 weeks old. So, we have to balance your health and his, and we are going to treat your symptoms and try to keep you stable for as long as we can. First, you’re going to have to go on restricted bed rest. This means you’ll be on a catheter, and you won’t be able to leave the bed at all. Also, we’re going to start an IV drip of magnesium which is going to help keep you from having a seizure, but it will also make you feel like you have the flu. We’re going to start you on steroids to help Jack’s lungs develop faster. Because, you’re not going to make it to 40 weeks. In fact, you’ll probably deliver in about a week. Also, you’re going to have to transfer to a different hospital. We have a NICU here, but we’re only able to take infants born at 30 weeks or later. And we can’t guarantee you’ll stay pregnant that long. If things get worse, we may have to induce you tonight.”

He left the room so that Erik and I could talk. But we just sat there for a moment, silent and in shock. Everything we had planned was changing. I was about to be moved to a strange hospital with strange doctors and be confined until I delivered, which could even be done that night. Suddenly, there was a whirlwind of action. I remember being annoyed that I had to take my contacts out – if I had to get a C-section right away, they did not want me wearing my contacts. I really regretted lapsing on my eyeglasses prescription then. The nurse weighed me… how had I suddenly gained 7 pounds since this morning? Then, the nurses came in to give me a catheter and set me up with the magnesium, just as the ambulance came to take me to the other hospital. All I could think about was getting my FMLA paperwork signed, so I wouldn’t be fired for having to take time off of work. I remember nurses holding my hands as I tried not to cry, and Erik standing in the corner watching this flurry of activity happen to me and being unable to get close to me when the IV and catheter was put in.

I was put in the ambulance to go to CMC Main, and I had no idea what to expect. All of the reading pregnancy books and researching on baby websites and planning what to do in every instance… well, we never planned for this. And we were scared.

When Jack was born: Birth Story, Part 1

When I signed up for NaBloPoMo, I knew I would have days where I’d be grasping at straws for something to write about. But there was one thing I could write about, and it would take some time to write about. But it’s about time I share it, without a sense of anxiety or remorse. This is the story of how Jack was born (part 1 of… I’m not sure yet).

July 14th, 2010 – Week 29 email to family:

Hi everyone – this is an action-packed email this week, so I’ll jump right in.

This week, Jack continues to grow in length and add weight. I’m not going to put in size comparisons anymore, because we have learned that he is a bit on the small side – specifically, in the 20th percentile. This means that out of 100 women having babies, 80 of them would have babies bigger than him. The doctor said this is still in normal range, but something they will keep their eyes on. Additionally this week, Jack’s brain is continuing to develop folds which allow for future expansion of brain tissue as he continues to churn out brain cells. He’s kicking like crazy and determined to pop out my belly button.

So, on to the “action”. This past Thursday, I woke up with a strong headache. As the day progressed, the headache got worse despite taking medicine, I could not keep any food or water down, and my blood pressure was high even when I was lying down and completely relaxed. Erik and I went to my OB’s office, and he sent us to the hospital for observation and a 24-urine collection test. This was to see if I was experiencing symptoms from chronic hypertension (which I had before pregnancy) or the more serious preeclampsia, which would be detected through the urine test. I was in the hospital, confined to bed and lying on my left side, from Thursday evening to Saturday morning, and was released because my urine test came back negative for proteins (a positive result would have pointed towards preeclampsia). So with a prescription for a higher dose of blood pressure medicine and a follow-up appointment for Tuesday, we left.

Since then, I noticed that I had started swelling more than before, especially in my face, ankles and feet. In addition, I had gained 10 lbs. in the hospital, and my blood pressure was staying at the high range. We monitored my blood pressure several times throughout the day. Yesterday at my follow-up appointment, my urine test came back positive for protein, putting preeclampsia back on the table as a diagnosis. Combined with my continued high blood pressure, the doctor decided to send me to the hospital again for blood tests (this way, the tests would be back within an hour instead of the following day, if they had done them at the OB office). The blood tests show that my liver and platelet functions were normal, which is good news since preeclampsia can affect liver, kidneys, and blood clotting. We were sent home with an order to do another 24-hour urine collection test at home, and to rest as much as possible.

The good news is that Jack is looking healthy! We’ve had 2 ultrasounds in the past few days (which is when we learned that he’s a bit on the small side) and he is looking healthy. Every time a baby monitor was strapped to me, he would kick the monitor like crazy to knock it off, and then move away from it. In one of the ultrasounds, he again covered his face, then flipped over and mooned us and showed us, once again, that he is definitely a boy.

For now, we’re taking things day by day. The only cure for preeclampsia is delivery of the baby, but of course the longer Jack can stay in utero, the better. Right now, we’re hoping that continued monitoring of my blood pressure and urine and a lot of rest will allow Jack to stay put and grow for several more weeks.

Have a good week, everyone!

At this point, I was naïve. It was naïve to think that I could calm myself down, still try to go to work and make it through the end of this pregnancy. What I did not know was that the preeclampsia had already taken over my body, so that no amount of relaxing would make this ok. Soon, no amount of bed rest or high doses of medication would make it ok, either. But even though I was being naïve, I already knew that this was not going to have the ending I thought it would. The ending of me in a hospital bed, with a healthy, screaming Jack on my chest seconds after being born, everyone smiling while Erik and I basked in the beauty of our perfect, full-term baby boy.

Reaching for my goals, and my toes

A quick follow-up on this post – I did go to the massage. Jack was sick, but Erik said he could take him to the sick clinic in the morning so that I could still do my massage. Of course, I was halfway to the place when I realized that Jack’s car seat was in my car. After turning around, speeding home, getting the seat out and speeding back, I was 25 minutes late. When I explained the delay, the masseuse said, “I wouldn’t be able to relax if my child were home sick, but maybe that’s just me.” Thanks for the cherry on top of my guilt sundae, lady! I did relax – in fact, I fell asleep on the table. Then I came home, and realized that I was also starting to get sick. Jack and I will be staying home tomorrow, recuperating.

A few months ago, I turned 33. I’m no longer a young woman, but I’m certainly not old. Yet, I felt much older. I was constantly fatigued and out of energy, my knees and joints popped and ached, my clothes weren’t fitting because I had packed on some weight, and I was starting to feel like I was too old to do anything.

But, wait a minute. 33 is not old. So why was I letting myself feel old? And why was I accepting it? Once I asked myself those questions, there was a new question: what was I going to do about it?

First, time to lose the weight. I already posted about “Hunger Games” and how I’ve stayed (almost entirely) vegan. Then, I decided to get checked out by the professionals. My physical with my general practitioner was actually FUN because I got to see how my changes in diet were making a positive impact on my health. But a LONG overdue check-up with a dentist was not fun, as it revealed 3 cavities, and an urgent need to replace my bridgework. Did I mention that I’d rather stick my hand in a blender than go to a dentist? Turns out I’d need five dentist appointments after that check-up to fix the neglect I’d done. But, it’s a lesson learned – you better believe I floss like a pro now.

Now it’s time to get my fitness level back. You wouldn’t know it from looking at me now (sitting on the sofa watching CSI), but I used to be a runner. Cross-country was my sport in high school, and I loved it because running was the only sport I was any good at. I couldn’t throw or catch or kick, but I could put one foot in front of the other and repeat, over and over and over. Running gave me a feeling of accomplishment and pride. I wasn’t leading the pack, but I was finishing the race and improving a little every time, and that was enough for me.

I need that feeling again. I need to feel pride in myself and my body – especially now, because my body has done so much more. My body has completed 2 Breast Cancer 3 Days! My body has been through major surgery! My body made a baby!!! My body gives me the strength to carry on every day, through fatigue and stress, and it can do so much more. It’s time to push it again. For crying out loud, I want to touch my toes again.

I had thought of doing another 3 Day, but I can’t find anyone who will do it with me. I’ve done it by myself before, and it was a bit rough. Do I want to train for that and hope I find a partner along the way? Do I want to try for another endurance event? Do I want to try for the dream I’ve had since I was 14 years old, and run a marathon?

I’m not really sure yet. My true goal is to get back in shape, but my physical therapist (who I am seeing to help strengthen my knees, which has always been my weak area) says that it’s much more helpful to set a tangible goal along the way. But now that I am starting to reap some benefits of exercising (I ran for the first time in years yesterday – only for a few minutes, but it was a BIG start), I’m starting to feel as if anything is possible. The question is, what do I want to make possible?